Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Process: Jorma & Marcelo

This is the last week of rehearsals for the Kings of the Dance. The show will open in Moscow in just seven days before the production comes to the Center for its American premiere. While many of the pieces are already set and being polished in rehearsals, today's focus is in on a completely new work being created by Jorma Elo for Marcelo Gomes. Elo, the Finnish-born resident choreographer of Boston Ballet, has set his new dance, Still of King, to the first movement of Franz Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 100 in G major. Elo cues the music and Gomes walks slowly to the center of the room. The dancing that follows is brilliant, full of mercurial shifts of mood, fluid, modern and expansive.

Elo and Gomes have been working for the past four days, but there is still a section of music that needs to be choreographed. They move silently to a far corner of the room, and Elo remains motionless for some time, his head bowed slightly. The dancer watches for what's to come. Throughout the rehearsal Elo hardly speaks and when he does, it's so softly as if to himself. Finally he turns to face the mirror and bourrees in 6th position back to the center of the floor. He pauses contemplating his shape in the mirror, then a shoulder wave ripples through his body. He marks the sequence again with Gomes following closely. “Ok, let's see what this looks like,” Elo says in his characteristic hushed voice.

Elo seems to be that rare choreographer who creates directly on and in front of his dancers. Before setting each phrase he assumes the last pose of the preceding movement and remains completely still in a deep inner space until he knows exactly what the next steps will be. It's a zen-like process. He signals a jump, and as Gomes vaults into the air, Elo softly exhales, “Jesus, you are so good at it.” Gomes smiles warmly. His ability to immediately interpret the outline of movement indicated by the choreographer, giving it full weight, emotional color and life, is astonishing to watch.

“Will I survive this?” asks Gomes. “You'll die,” says Elo in a reassuring tone. “Good!” is the dancer's breezy reply.

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